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Govinda Sah Azad


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Asian Art Newspaper

6 Burlington Gardens

London, Greater London,W1S 3ET

United Kingdom

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Asian Art in London (AAL) is a globally recognised event that has, for the past 20 years, attracted top Asian art dealers, prime auction houses and leading museums and institutions. Together they promote London as a centre of expertise for the finest Asian art...more

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Govinda Sah Azad : Transcriptions
Birth of a Star (2010), oil, spray and acrylic on canvas, 180 x 120. Although artist Govinda Sah Azad first started painting clouds in the open air of his native Nepal, those here presents on canvas this winter at London's October Gallery are far removed from the grey-white formations that spread out above the Himalayan valleys. The clouds both artists paint symbolise the transcendental barrier between the individual and metaphysical truth. 'The light behind the clouds is infinity,' Azad explains from his south London studio. 'The clouds are a window to infinity, a point to compare the distance between us and infinity.' The cloud form also has psychological resonance for Azad - 'We have desires that are so infinite that they can never be achieved, so we are always clouded as humans,' as well as symbolism of a natural world that he so reveres. 'Nature is a supreme power beyond any organised religion,' he enthuses. 'Oxygen does not belong to Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism. It belongs to nature. We all breathe in nature - nature is my religion, it's your religion, it's all of our religion.' It is rare to find such Wordsworthian fervour in a young artist in London today, but then Azad is not a typical case. The painter graduated with an MA from London's Wimbledon College of Arts in 2008 and while he shares a warehouse complex with a large number of other recent graduates, it is a safe bet that the 36-year-old has the most colourful life story. Born in a village in southeastern Nepal, Azad was raised in poverty as one of six children. Although he did not receive any art education, he became preoccupied with drawing from a young age, to the anxiety of his parents who beat him in order to get him to focus on what they saw as more productive work. When draconian methods failed, they relented and named him 'Azad'(freedom), to characterise his independent spirit. By the age of 15, he had crossed the border for Delhi, working first as a housekeeper and then as a sign painter. He returned to Nepal as his teenage years ended to support his brother during college, setting up a sign shop in Kathmandu. But a chance meeting with established Nepalese artist KG Ranjit changed the course of his career; the painter inspired him to enter art school at the city's Tribhuvan University. He dedicated himself to landscapes, painting plein air from 5am for five hours before returning for lessons and then spending the evening working in his shop. 'My parents only beat me because they were illiterate and didn't have any understanding about art,'Azad acknowledges. 'Nepal is very poor and politically it is very damaged - there is not much motivation for people and politicians to spend money on art.'In an effort to spread art to people who had not experienced it, Azad spent his university holidays travelling Nepal by bicycle. He painted landscapes as he went -drawing crowds to see him paint - as well as organising exhibitions of local artists and giving lectures at schools. He embarked on similar trips in India and, after graduation, Bangladesh, where he completed an MA in the capital Dhaka. When his patron in Bangladesh returned to Britain, he decided to join him and try his luck in London. Azad is scathing about the level of art education in his home country. 'The teaching in Nepal is still very traditional - still life, portraiture and landscape, and it is all about drawing as realistically as possible,' the painter reveals. 'There is no experimental work. We aren't taught about Jackson Pollock, or Impressionism - they are still in a primitive age in art.' At Wimbledon, he was encouraged to progress his paintings of clouds in new directions. For years he has mixed oil and acrylic to achieve a variety of painterly effects, often blending in sand for added texture; recently he has experimented with other techniques: pasting newspaper snippets, cutting circular holes in his centre of his canvases, scratching out geometric shapes. He even cuts large canvases into pieces, hanging the fragments with small gaps of space in between them. But the best of Azad's works, such as Despair Truth and Melting Truth (both 2010), eschew dramatictechnical tricks for a subtle balancing of colour, with light and dark in perfect tension. 'There are two different worlds in my paintings,' he concludes. 'One is optimistic, always giving you light - a kind of hope - and one is pessimistic, a kind of negativity. 2: Despair Truth (2010) by Govinda Sah Azad, acrylic and oil on canvas.


Govinda is an explorer - almost a scientist - looking into the world of energies and not of things.
Starting with the spirit culture and landscapes of his homeland Nepal, he has moved into modern expressions of what is within and, lately, into the heart of creative energy. His very tangible, textured, exquisite and astonishing canvases are windows into primordial worlds and the mystery of how nothing becomes something. His art is a pleasure. He invites you in to the wonderful world of his intuitions and perceptions so that you can see for yourself. Who knows what he will do next? (10 June 2010) GOVINDA AZAD: CLOUD CONSCIOUSNESS, CONSCIENCE AND FREEDOM The universality of this experience was brought home to me when I first received an email from Govinda Azad in 2007 expressing his interest in an article I had written on the cloud as a symbol, derived from my doctoral research and my painting. I was amazed to see someone whose ideas and work were so similar to mine from across the world! I had been painting and researching the cloud for years and I was thrilled to learn that Govinda had concepts identical to my interest in the cloud as an important spiritual symbol. His travels through India, Bangladesh and Germany confirmed his belief that the power of the cloud was a power for world peace and mutual understanding. His further study in London for his MA in painting developed both his scholarship and his creativity in the use of this imagery in his artwork. Born in Nepal, he began working with the cloud as a symbol for peace since 1999 with the slogan "The 21st Century is the Century of Art and Peace. His early work explored this through skilled realistic imagery depicting clouds. Govinda was fascinated with landscapes and painted over 300 multiple miniature cloud paintings, non-stop, in 2006, before going to UK. In London his teachers asked him why he painted clouds, and he replied that he believed the cloud was a "spiritual power of nature. His paintings were not attempts at realism but from his heart, to express his emotions. In his studies he was challenged to provide intellectual reasons for what he did, which at first was difficult for him since he emerged from a different paradigm . . . one did not need to rationalize creativity and feelings. However his interim MA exhibit at The Nunnery Art Gallery in London, March, 2008, revealed Govinda's sophisticated merger of conceptual ideas in artwork that transcended appearances, and pushed his work to another level. His artwork in 2006 (and also a play he wrote) examined the notion of a wall, without windows or doors. Govinda sees that we are trapped inside walls by the religious perspectives of traditional religions. It is the cloud that exists beyond and can carry us outside these walls. His work explores our dreams and hopes beyond the difficult realities of everyday lives. Through the use of exciting contrasts of light and dark, he evokes light as a metaphor for life and enlightenment. His broad brushstrokes and rhythmic compositions move the viewer into a vortex that melts convention and confinement. Despite his fear that humanity in the 21st century is not getting better, but worse in many respects, he believes the artist's struggle and message is pivotal for survival. He laments that everything is about business and profits in politics, religion and the artworld. Govinda observes that religion should free us from this crude materialism, but it often does not. He realizes that there are only two things on the planet that can escape the 360° pull of gravity and they are clouds, and the spirit. His installation "Spiritual Gravity: Beyond the 360°" explored this understanding, and provided the viewer with a visual synthesis that incorporated their own image into cloud-like abstract forms on multi-layered materials. His MA thesis examined the cloud in the art of Constable, JMW Turner and Casper Friedrick, discussing their relationship to the spiritual and the aesthetic of the sublime. This power of cloud imagery was also noted in the work of some contemporary artists. Perhaps England's humid island climate elicited an interest in the cloud in artists as Constable and Turner. For Govinda, coming from Nepal high in the Himalayas, he too possesses a great sensitivity to the extraordinary shapes, textures and colors of clouds that he then masterfully depicts in his art. Govinda Sah Azad can be described as an artist in a great hurry to spread the message of peace, love and understanding through his art. His energy and capacity for endurance give him a distinct edge. Very few recognize that this artist's vision is a deeply spiritual one. Govinda was the first Nepali to declare the 21st century as 'the Century for Art and Peace'. This declaration or vision has been the driving force behind Govinda's artistic and spiritual journey. It is important to acknowledge that this artist has come a long way from Rajbiraj, Saptari. His transformation from a signboard painter in India to a student of Fine Arts has been a remarkable personal story of determination and discipline. His transition from a signboard painter in Rajbiraj, Saptari to an art student Kathmandu could not have been easy. During this period as a struggling art student and artist, Govinda took on several commercial commissions to survive. At a time when the nation was reeling through a bloody civil war, he also devoted his energies to spreading the message of peace through his work. As a student at the Lalitkala, Govinda embarked upon a grueling bicycle tour of twenty-three districts in Nepal in 1999. The Maoist uprising did not deter him. His energy and exuberance seem to have given him the ability to face all odds. While traveling from Mechi to Mahakali, his desire to spread the message of peace came into fruition and Govinda was able to interact with children in the various districts and teach art in local schools along the way. In 2002, he also embarked upon an ambitious tour of South Asia and held exhibitions in India and Bangladesh. In 2005, he traveled to Germany and Holland and exhibited his paintings based on peace. In between his travels and academic pursuits, Govinda has also held twenty-four solo exhibitions of his work. He has also participated in several art camps and workshops and group exhibitions. It is interesting to note that Govinda Dongol, senior artist and campus Chief once described Govinda Sah 'Azad' as "Lion Heart" Though the message of peace has dominated Govinda's paintings each exhibition of the Artist's work has been radically different in style and expression. In June 2006, Govinda Azad held a solo exhibition of his paintings at the Siddhartha Art Gallery. This exhibition titled 'Pillars of Hope', was a celebration of Nepali culture and documented the artist's rapturous reaction to the art and architecture of the valley. Carved pillars and windows, stone water spouts, Newari women in their traditional hand woven haku pataasi saris, ancient ritual masks were the recurring motifs in the canvases of an artist who had journeyed from the Mithila realm to pursue Fine Arts at Lalit Kala Academy in Kathmandu. Though Govinda painted the tangible living culture of the valley, a curious stillness seems to dominate these works and is in direct contrast to the artist's own restless energy. In 2006, Govinda traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to pursue an MFA in painting at 2006. A year later he attended the Wimbledon School of Art in the UK to received his second MFA in painting. The paintings in this exhibition constitute the body of work that the artist created in the UK and is a total departure from his earlier representational and narrative style. Based on cloud formations, Govinda turns his gaze to the heavens to mirror the storm in his own heart and to understand how the great masters like Turner, Constable and Casper Friedrick portrayed the tumultuous skies in their own paintings. Though many of the works in the cloud series have already been sold in the UK, Govinda's paintings compel us to rejoice in the artist's new found freedom. And when artist Govinda Sah Azad portrayed the clouds in his paintings, he depicted them in an even more abstract form - as a mysterious subject. Except for a couple of semi-abstract paintings of The Moon series almost all the paintings of Azad are abstract. Merely two colours constitute his canvases where these colours are in stark contrast; one being rather bright while the other dim, if not dark. Though dark colours like black chiefly dominate his paintings, bright colour emerges from few parts of the paintings. The dark part of his painting represents the gloomy side of life while the emergence of bright light symbolises hope. The bright light is the essence of his paintings. Besides black and white colours, yellow is another colour preferred by the artist to make the paintings lively. Yellow colour depicts the transitional phase on the canvases. Through the painting titled

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